Greta Garbo is arguably one of Hollywood’s greatest stars. A legendary actress who combined remarkable beauty with a modern spirit and irresistible allure. Garbo remains one of the most fascinating women in history. (Above photo – Garbo arriving in New York and sailing to Sweden)
Rare candid moment of Greta Garbo’s departure from Sweden in 1929 aboard the Swedish American Line’s MS GRIPSHOLM. Greta Garbo made her first voyage to the USA on the Drottningholm in 1925. The video of her departure from Gothenburg in this clip, after a brief visit to Sweden.
Actress Greta Garbo had a greater impact on her craft than did any other actress in the 20th century. She introduced what is now called method acting to the screen, and in twenty-eight films, twenty-five of them filmed in the United States, redefined the image of women on the screen. Her stunning beauty and style captured the hearts of millions.
Born in Stockholm, Sweden, she was the youngest of three children of a working class family. In 1920, she took a job as a salesperson at the leading Swedish department store, PUB, a job which led to her appearance in two advertising shorts for the store. This led to her first film role in the comedy Peter the Tramp (1922). Later that year she won a full scholarship to the Academy of the Royal Dramatic Theatre, the training ground for nearly every Swedish actor.
In 1923 Garbo left the Academy to star in Mauritz Stiller’s classic Gosta Berling’s Saga, which premiered in 1924. The film was a critical and commercial success. Garbo’s appearance in this film, and in the even more renown Joseph Pabst filmStreet of Sorrow in 1925, solidified her position as one of the premier actresses in Europe.
Louis B. Mayer, the president of MGM, signed Garbo to a contract after viewing Gosta Berling’s Saga, and she moved to California in late 1925. Her first American film was The Torrent, which premiered in March of 1926. The Torrent, The Temptress andFlesh and the Devil accounted for 13% of the revenue generated by all MGM films produced during the 1925/26 production year. Garbo was now an international star.
Given this success, MGM tried to renegotiate its original three year contract with Greta Garbo. A protracted six month contract dispute was resolved in June, 1927. In the next two years Garbo made seven more silent films, and accounted for 14% of MGM’s profit from those two production years. In her film roles and personal life, Garbo demonstrated the new potential for women in the modern world. Many of her films were controversial at the time of their release.
Greta Garbo’s first talkies were English and German versions of an adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie. Released in 1930, Anna Christie marked Garbo’s successful transition from the silent screen to the new world of sound pictures, a transition few of the silent stars were able to make. She went on to make thirteen more films for MGM. In the movies,Camille (1937) and Ninotchka (1939), Garbo delivers two of her most magnificent performances. She received a special Oscar for her work in 1954.
During the Second World War Greta Garbo took a break from the movie business. Although she signed a contract for the production of a film in 1947, and considered projects well into the fifties, Garbo never made another film.
In addition to her film legacy, Garbo sat for a number of stunning portrait photographs by a wide range of photographers, including; Edward Steichen, Ruth Harriet Louise, Clarence Sinclair Bull, Nikolas Muray, Arnold Genthe and Cecil Beaton.
After the war, Garbo moved to New York, where she lived until her death in 1990. Beyond her impact on the world of film, her status as a clearly modern woman captivated the world. She set styles in fashion and beauty for decades. She was the first woman to be viewed as both assertive and feminine.
Aboard a Swedish American Line ship in the 1930s…
Greta Garbo & the famous director Maurice Stiller on board the “S.S. Drottningholm” in 1925 en route to the United States
MS Gripsholm was an ocean liner, built in 1925 by Armstrong, Whirthworth & Company in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England for the Swedish American Line for use in transatlantic traffic from Gothenburg to New York.
From 1927 onwards she was used as a cruise ship alongside transatlantic crossings. Swedish American Line was one of the finest steamship companies operating.
From 1942 to 1946, the United States Department of State chartered Gripsholm as an exchange and repatriation ship, carrying Japanese and German nationals to exchange points where she then picked up Americans and Canadians (and British married to Americans or Canadians) to bring home to America and Canada. In this service she sailed under the auspices of the International Red Cross, with a Swedish captain and crew.
Exchanges took place at neutral ports; at Lourenco Marques in Mozambique or Mormugoa in Portuguese India with the Japanese, and Stockholm or Lisbon with the Germans.
After the war, Gripsholm was used to deport inmates of US prisons to Italy and Greece. The Swedish American Line sold Gripsholm to Norddeutscher Lloyd in 1954, who renamed her to MS Berlin. The ship was sold for scrap in 1966.
The MS Drottningholm – Greta Garbo sailed aboard this SAL ship on her first visit to America in 1925.
ON GRETA GARBO…
Greta Garbo is arguably one of Hollywood’s greatest stars. A legendary actress who combined remarkable beauty with a modern spirit and irresistible allure. Garbo remains one of the most fascinating women in history.
Greta Lovisa Gustafson
September 18, 1905
28 Movies, 1922-1941
4 Academy Awards Oscar nominations for Best Actress
1954 received Academy Award Oscar for her “Unforgettable Performances”
GUINNESS WORLD RECORD:
Named “the most beautiful woman that ever lived” in 1954
In the 1930s she was one of the highest paid women in America.
FAVORITE VACATION SPOTS:
Sweden, France, Italy, Switzerland and the Caribbean Islands.
“I’ve led a fabulous life.” 1990
EXCERPT ABOUT GARBO:
Five of us sat in a projection room when Greta Garbo’s first scenes – the picture was Ibanez’ “The Torrent” – were thrown up on the screen. So far as the screen went, Miss Garbo was an unknown quantity. Would she or wouldn’t she? Did she or didn’t she? A thousand feet of film sped by, and then another thousand. No one spoke. Then more film, and still more. Finally the lights flashed up. One of the men ground his cigarette into the floor with his shoe. “But two roles in life are open to that lady,” he said. “She can act, or she can start a new religion. So far as results go it won’t make much of a difference. She’ll click either way.”
-Thomas Ince in Photoplay October, 1928